By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Nearly 200 bingo players poured into the Elks lodge on Sunday to help raise money for an 11-month-old girl’s headstone.
Harper LaRue Mitch died in June, and her parents, Eric Mitch, of Juniata County, and Ashley Delp, of Selinsgrove, wanted to make sure they could order a suitable headstone for her grave at Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Winfield. Funeral costs and other payments had already eaten through a lot of their money, Mitch said.
Fewer than 50 of the $20 tickets had been sold leading up to the event, but by the time the first game started around 1 p.m., volunteers were scrambling to find seats for roughly 180 bingo players.
“We did not know there would be a turnout like this, it’s amazing,” said organizer Shannon Chappell. “People were handing me $100 for a ticket and telling me to keep the change.”
“I didn’t expect this many people,” Mitch said. “There aren’t many words to describe it.”
Delp added: “It really means a lot that everyone would come here to help out when some don’t really know me or her.”
Chappell knew Delp through attending beauty school classes together. When she heard about Delp wanting to raise money for Harper’s headstone, she decided to help her organize a big event in the hope of earning most of the funds at once.
Word spread largely through word of mouth and Facebook, said Chappell. Some bingo players traveled from Harrisburg, Mifflinburg, Williamsport and McAlisterville to play and support Harper’s parents. Cash donations were also collected during the fundraiser. The goal was to raise $3,000 for the headstone, and the event raked in far more than expected because to the turnout.
“We raised more than enough for the headstone,” Chappell said.
Many of the supplies, including the food, prizes and space, were donated, meaning that most of the money collected can go toward purchasing the stone. The Elks donated the space for the bingo games, which was “a huge help,” Chappell said.
Twenty games of bingo were played at the lodge from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Anybody interested in making additional donations for the headstone can do so at any branch of M&T Bank by asking to contribute to the Harper LaRue Mitch Memorial Fund.